By Tim Cayanga
Popping bubble wrap likely brings back memories of childhood for many people. I have probably spent hours as a kid popping the bubbles on packages with bubble wrap. It was a fun activity, hearing the bubbles pop until I ran out of bubbles, before I would search for more bubble wraps to pop.
In fact, bubble wrap wasn’t supposed to be used for packaging at the start. Albert Fielding and Marc Chavannes invented bubble wrap in 1957 as a wallpaper alternative, but this didn’t take off. They thought of over 400 different uses for bubble wrap, including positioning it as a greenhouse insulator, but all of these uses proved ineffective. It wasn’t until 1960 where they pitched bubble wrap to IBM as a packaging material for computers. IBM liked the idea, and the rest is history.
In the last 50 years, bubble wrap has become a popular and essential item of packaging. Each year, enough bubble wrap is made to wrap the Earth 10 times. What’s worse is that much of this ends up in the ocean, posing as a health and choking hazard for marine wildlife, and endangering people who accidentally eat plastic that was consumed by fish.
A dilemma has also emerged in the past year. A survey by Oceana, the world’s largest international ocean conservation organization, shows that “78% [of respondents] reported online shopping, 85% of online customers are concerned about plastic pollution, 71% would use a plastic-free choice/alternative packaging if offered, 53% of customers surveyed reported buying more online because of COVID-19 and 43% reported that they were bothered by the extra plastic packaging they are receiving due to the acceleration of online shopping related to the pandemic.”
With this increase in online shopping and packaging demands, how might we rethink bubble wrap so that we lessen our impact on the environment and guilt when it comes to online shopping?
Here are some ways to do just that:
#1: Petition for companies to use more sustainable packaging.
One example is Oceana’s petition on Change.org calling for companies to offer plastic-free packaging options. Other sustainable alternatives to bubble wrap in packaging include biodegradable plastic, biodegradable air peanuts, and air pillows. These ensure that your packages will stay safe while allowing you to have a guilt-free disposal or reusing of the packaging.
#2: Shop locally.
Many couriers have policies which force companies to wrap their items in bubble wrap when shipping internationally. One way to avoid this is to look if the items you want are available locally, so that the stores don’t have to package it in so much plastic either. An added benefit is that you can cut down on emissions by buying items closer to home!
#3: Reuse the bubble wrap.
You can cut out from disposing bubble wrap by reusing it as packaging as well, and encouraging the next users to reuse it as well. This can be through daily deliveries or even presents during holidays. Bubble wrap can even be used to protect delicate groceries such as fruits and vegetables. There is always the option of using bubble wrap for its original purpose, as a wallpaper!
Here at Avocado, we advocate for weaving sustainability into people’s lives, one habit at a time. Start a new habit of reducing your impact on the environment with these three tips on bubble wrap. Check out some of our partners in packaging as well on our Avocado platform, and learn more about how to become a more environmentally-conscious consumer.
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